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The Wall Street Journal: Biden administration split on whether to sanction Russian cybersecurity firm Kaspersky

WASHINGTON — The Biden administration is divided over whether to impose sanctions on Kaspersky Lab, a Russian cybersecurity giant that officials warn could be used by the Kremlin as a surveillance tool against its customers, according to people familiar with the matter.

The White House’s National Security Council has pressed the Treasury Department to ready the sanctions as part of the broad Western campaign to punish Russia for its invasion of Ukraine, according to officials familiar with the matter. While Treasury officials have been working to prepare the package, sanctions experts within the department have raised concerns over the size and scope of such a move. The company’s software is used by hundreds of millions of customers across the world, making it difficult to enforce the sanctions.

In addition, some officials in the U.S. and Europe fear sanctioning Kaspersky Lab will increase the likelihood of triggering a cyberattack against the West by Moscow, even potentially leveraging the software itself.

It wasn’t clear whether the sanctions would go forward, and one official said the idea had been put on hold for now. The debate reflects how agencies within the Biden administration are weighing in real time options to deliver more economic pain to the Russian economy in response to its invasion of Ukraine.

Kaspersky Lab has repeatedly denied that it works with Russia or any government to facilitate cyber espionage or other malicious cyber activity.

An expanded version of this report appears on WSJ.com.

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